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The  following  pages  embody  a  Lecture 
which  I  recently  delivered  to  the  Glasgow 
Dickens  Society.  At  the  request  of  the 
Society,  I  have  revised  it  for  publication  in 
book  form. 

T.  A.  F. 

Glasgow,   October,   1910. 


Charles  Dickens  was  pre-eminently  the 
novelist  of  the  law,  and  his  lawyers  have 
a  hold  upon  the  public  imagination  far 
surpassing  that  of  any  other  author.  But, 
although  his  lawyer  creations  are  most 
widely  known,  he  is  not  the  only  author 
who  has  built  a  tale  upon  a  legal  foundation. 
A  few  references  selected  at  random  may 
be  interesting  by  way  of  contrast. 

Next  to  "Bleak  House"  of  Dickens, 
perhaps  the  most  sustained  literary  effort  of 
this  description  is  that  delightful,  if  some- 
what long-drawn-out,  tale  of  seventy  years 
ao-o — nowadays,    I    fear,    seldom    read,  even 

8  Charles  Dickens 

by  the  young  lawyer — "  Ten  Thousand  a 
Year."  written  by  Samuel  Warren,  who  was 
himself  a  lawyer,  and  who  built  a  long  tale 
upon  a  flaw  in  an  estate  title — a  tale  which 
involved  not  one,  but  several  lawsuits,  not 
less  intricate  thdin  yar^idyce  and  Jarndyce,  the 
famous  Chancery  suit  upon  which  Dickens 
built  his  chief  legal  novel.  In  this  book 
Warren  created  Quirk,  Gamin  &  Snap,  who 
held  the  field  as  representing  the  type 
of  sharp-practice  solicitor  till  put  in  the 
shade  by  Dodson  &  Fogg  of  "Pickwick" 

Anthony  Trollope,  In  his  book  "  Orley 
Farm,"  produced  a  novel  of  the  law  which 
contains  some  striking  legal  characters, 
including  that  typical  old-time  barrister 
Mr.  Furnival,  K.C.,  M.P.,  and  that  delight- 
ful and  eccentric  Old  Bailey  practitioner 
Mr.  Chaffanbrass,  whose  personality  is  akin 
to  more  than  one   of  the  Dickens  creations. 

and   the  Law  9 

and  whose  portrait,  as  thus  pen-painted   by 
Trollope,  is  quite  in  the  Dickens  style  : 

In  person  Mr.  Chaffanbrass  is  a  little  man,  and  a  very 
dirty  little  man.  He  has  all  manner  of  nasty  tricks  about 
him,  which  make  him  a  disagreeable  neighbour.  His 
wig  is  never  at  ease  upon  his  head,  but  is  poked  by  him, 
sometimes  over  one  ear,  and  sometimes  over  the  other, 
now  on  the  back  of  his  head,  and  then  on  his  nose ;  and 
it  is  impossible  to  say  in  which  guise  he  looks  most 
cruel,  most  sharp,  and  most  intolerable.  His  linen  is 
never  clean,  his  hands  never  washed,  and  his  clothes 
never  new.  But  his  tongue — that  moves — there  is  the 
weapon  which  he  knows  how  to  use. 

Smollett  had  rather  an  ambition  after  legal 
portraiture,  and  in  his  legal  novel  "Sir 
Launcelot  Greaves  "  he  gives  this  full- 
length  portrait  of  a  young  and  painfully 
respectable  attorney  : 

Tom  Clarke  was  a  young  fellow  whose  goodness  of 
heart  even  the  exercise  of  his  profession  had  not  been 
able  to  corrupt.  Before  strangers  he  never  owned 
himself  an  attorney  without  blushing,  though  he  had  no 
reason  to  blush  for  his  own  practice,  for  he  constantly 
refused  to  engage  in  the  cause  of  any  client  whose 
character  was  equivocal,  and  was  never  known  to  act 

lo  Charles   Dickens 

with  such  industry  as  when  concerned  for  the  widow  and 
orphan,  or  any  other  that  sued  in  forma  pauperis. 
Indeed,  he  was  so  replete  with  human  kindness  that,  as 
often  as  an  afflicting  story  or  circumstance  was  told  in 
his  hearing,  it  overflowed  in  his  eyes. 

One  cannot  help  thinking  that  this  most 
exemplary  young  lawyer  must  have  been 
amongst  the  good  who  die  young.  He  is 
the  type  of  young  lawyer  who  could  not  have 
failed  to  be  a  bore,  and  we  are  not  surprised 
that  the  portrait  goes  on  to  say  : 

He  piqued  himself  on  understanding  the  practice  of 
the  Courts,  and  in  private  company  he  took  pleasure  in 
laying  down  the  law.. 

Perhaps  human  nature  is  perverse,  but  I 
fear  this  is  not  the  type  of  lawyer  the  public 
craves  to  see  represented  on  the  stage  or 
presented  to  them  in  the  pages  of  fiction,  and 
it  is  not  surprising  that  "  Sir  Launcelot 
Greaves"  was  Smollett's  least  successful  novel. 
His  lawyers,  however,  were  not  all  impossibly 
good  like  Mr.  Tom  Clarke.      In  "  Ferdinand, 

and   the   Law  1 1 

Count  Fathom,"  we  meet  a  different  type  of 
attorney.  His  fortune  was  made — as  has 
happened  before  and  since — by  special 
ingenuity  in  the  construction  of  bills  of  costs, 
and  one  cannot  but  sympathise  with  his  luck- 
less client  who  found  that  his  lawyer's  bill 
included  350  consultation  fees  in  the  course 
of  a  year  of  only  365  days  including  Sundays. 
But  this  attorney  also  deserves  our  sympathy, 
for  Count  Fathom's  mode  of  paying  his 
lawyer's  bill  was  to  split  the  poor  attorney's 
head  with  a  poker,  and  when  remonstrated 
with  by  the  doctor — who  took  a  grave  view 
of  the  possible  result  of  his  violence — his 
reply  is  significant  of  the  estimation  in 
which,  in  Smollett's  day,  the  attorney  was 

I  am  not  so  unacquainted  with  the  resistance  of  an 
attorney's  skull  as  to  believe  the  chastisement  I  have 
Inflicted  upon  him  will  at  all  endanger  his  life,  which  is 
in  much  greater  danger  from  the  hands  of  the  common 

12  Charles  Dickens 

Fielding  had  no  exalted  opinion  of  the 
solicitors  of  his  day,  although,  as  a  member 
of  the  bar,  he  must  have  looked  to  them  for 
briefs.  His  opinion  is  quaintly  expressed  in 
his  left-handed  compliment  to  Mr.  Dowling, 
the  attorney  in  "Tom  Jones,"  of  whom  it  is 
quaintly  remarked  that  "he  had  not  divested 
himself  of  humanity  in  being  an  attorney." 

In  "  Man  and  Wife  "  Wilkie  Collins  pre- 
sents two  colourless  solicitors  described  as 
belonging  to — 

That  large  class  of  purely  mechanical  and  perfectly 
mediocre  persons  connected  with  the  practice  of  the  law, 
who  will  probably,  in  a  more  advanced  state  of  society, 
be  superseded  by  machinery. 

This  description  of  the  colourless  type  of 
lawyer  is,  in  suggestiveness,  worthy  of 
Dickens  himself 

Perhaps  the  most  optimistic  view  of  the 
lawyer  in  modern  fiction  is  that  in  Sir 
Walter    Besant's    legal    novel    "The    Ivory 

and  the  Law  i  3 

Gate,"  a  book  which  contains  quite  a  number 
of  legal  characters,  and  not  a  bad  one 
amongst  them.  His  portrait  of  a  solicitor 
is  in  refreshing  contrast  to  some  of  those 
I  have  quoted. 

The  solicitor  is  always  engaged  in  considering  how 
best  to  guide  his  fellow-man  through  the  labyrinthine 
world.  He  receives  his  fellow-man  at  his  entrance  into 
life  as  a  ward ;  he  receives  him  grown  up  as  a  client ; 
he  advises  him  all  his  life,  at  every  step,  and  in  every 
emergency.  If  the  chent  goes  into  partnership,  or 
marries,  or  buys  a  house,  or  builds  one,  or  gets  into 
trouble,  the  solicitor  advises  and  assists  him.  When 
the  client  grows  old,  the  solicitor  makes  his  will.  When 
the  client  dies,  the  solicitor  becomes  executor  and  his 
trustee,  and  administers  his  estate.  It  is  thus  a  life 
spent  entirely  for  other  people.  I  know  not  of  any  other 
profession,  unless  it  be  medicine,  that  so  much  can  be 
said  of.  And  think  what  terrors,  what  anxieties,  what 
disappointments  the  soHcitor  witnesses  and  alleviates. 
Think  of  the  family  scandals  he  hushes  up  and  keeps 
secret.  Good  Heavens  !  if  a  solicitor  in  large  practice 
were  to  tell  what  he  knows,  think  of  the  terrible 
disclosures !  He  knows  everything.  He  knows  more 
tnan  a  Roman  Catholic  priest,  because  his  penitents  not 
only  reveal  their  own  sins,  but  also  those  of  their  wives, 
and  sons,  and  friends,  and  partners. 

14  Charles  Dickens 

This  humorously  sarcastic  picture  strikes 
just  the  note  which  explains  the  frequent  use 
of  the  lawyer  on  the  stage  and  in  fiction. 
The  many-sidedness  of  the  profession  of  the 
law  lends  itself  to  the  most  varied  treatment. 
Nothing  in  the  way  of  knowledge  (especially 
knowledge  of  so-called  secrets)  is  so  deep, 
and  nothing  in  the  way  of  behaviour  is  so 
eccentric,  but  a  lawyer  can  be  made  to  fit 
the  part,  and  so  it  is  not  surprising  that  the 
pages  of  fiction  teem  with  lawyers,  and  that 
no  melodrama  is  complete  without  a  stage 
lawyer  in  rusty  black. 

Perhaps  the  most  lovable  of  all  lawyers  in 
fiction  are  those  in  Thackeray's  "Pendennis  "; 
and  in  "  Philip  "  he  presents  us  in  Mr.  Bond, 
of  Bond  &  Selby,  with  a  unique  type 
of  lawyer  who  had  the  courage  to  quarrel 
with  his  best  client. 

In  "  Perlycross  "  Mr.  Blackmore  presents 
Mr.    Webber,    a    family    solicitor,    who    was 

and  the  Law  1 5 

"  no  time  server,  only  bound  by  his  duty  to 
the  firm  and  his  sense  of  loyal  service  to  a 

In  "Thicker  than  Water"  Mr.  James 
Payn  introduces  a  solicitor  with  a  high 
sense  of  honour  and  no  small  amount  of 
professional  courage,  who,  to  his  own  loss, 
sacrificed  a  client  for  whom  he  refused  to 
make  a  will  which  was  palpably  unjust ;  but 
he  had  this  satisfaction,  that  the  will,  being- 
executed  by  a  rival  solicitor,  was  afterwards 
found  to  be  invalid. 

In  "  The  Castle  Inn  "  of  Mr.  Stanley  Wey- 
man  Mr.  Peter  Fishwick  is  another  example 
in  fiction  of  the  poor  but  honest  attorney. 

Instances  might  be  multiplied  indefinitely 
of  novels  in  which  the  law  and  the 
lawyer  play  a  part,  I  had  almost  said  in 
which  the  law  is  dragged  in  and  the  lawyer 
is  made  to  act  a  part,  for  in  a  vast  number  of 
instances  the  novelist's  ideas  about  what  the 

1 6  Charles  Dickens 

law  is  are  exceedingly  amusing.  Plots  are 
evolved  out  of  legal  situations  which  could 
never  occur,  and  lawyers  are  represented  as 
saying  and  doing  things  which  no  sane 
lawyer  in  real  life  would  ever  dream  of 
saying  or  doing.  It  has  often  struck  me 
that  some  young  lawyer  with  time  on  his 
hands  might  do  his  profession  a  service,  and 
amuse  the  public,  by  compiling  a  volume 
of  extracts  from  popular  novels  setting 
forth  the  law  as  expressed  in  the  novels, 
and  in  a  parallel  column  the  law  as 
it  really  is.  Often  the  law  is  regarded 
as  a  subject  with  which  the  novelist 
may  take  a  wide  licence  and  may  present 
legal  principles  and  legal  practices,  not 
as  they  really  exist,  but  as  the  exigencies 
of  the  tale,  and  the  evolution  of  the 
plot,  require.  I  do  not  suppose  anybody 
wants  a  serious  view  of  the  law  presented  in 
the   pages   of  a   novel,   for   the   law  student 

and   the  Law  1 7 

does  not  go  there  for  his  legal  principles,  or 
to  inform  himself  of  the  correct  practice  of 
the  Courts ;  and  the  real  view  of  the  law,  as 
applied  to  the  circumstances  created  by  the 
novelist,  would  very  often  be  sordid  and 
uninteresting,  whilst  imaginative  law,  in 
the  hands  of  a  clever  writer,  can  be  made 
interesting,  and  sometimes  even  exciting. 

After  all,  the  view  of  the  law  which  so 
often  prevails  in  fiction  is  true  to  human 
experience,  for  the  bulk  of  humanity — 
especially  that  portion  of  it  which  has 
escaped  falling  into  the  toils  of  the  law  as  a 
personal  experience — looks  at  the  matter 
broadly  and  regards  the  profession  col- 
lectively. It  is  not  uncommon  in  every- 
day life  to  hear  disparaging  comment 
on  the  legal  profession,  made  by  people 
who,  if  caught  up  sharply,  and  pinned  down 
to  give  a  concrete  instance  of  what  they  talk 
vaguely   about    as    the    sharp   practices    of 

1 8  Charles  Dickens 

lawyers,  are,  to  their  own  surprise  perhaps, 
obHged  to  admit  that  the  individual  lawyers 
they  do  happen  to  know  personally,  do  not  at 
all  answer  to  their  general  idea  of  the  class. 
On  the  stage,  and  in  the  pages  of  fiction,  a 
lawyer  is  very  seldom  what  is  called  a 
"popular"  character.  The  stage  lawyer  is 
often  the  villain  of  the  piece.  Seldom  is  he 
presented  as  a  benefactor,  or  a  model  of 
virtuous  honesty,  or  the  champion  of  the 
oppressed,  or  the  exponent  of  the  truth. 
Such  a  stage  lawyer  would  probably  be 
condemned  as  unreal  by  the  critical  playgoer. 
And  yet,  is  it  not,  in  real  life,  the  case  that 
the  high-souled  lawyer  is  a  real  personage,  as 
many  have  (perhaps  to  their  own  surprise) 
discovered  in  their  time  of  stress  and  mis- 
fortune? In  one  of  his  books  Anthony 
Trollope  aptly  says  : 

Is  it  not  remarkable  that  the  common  repute  which 
we  all  give  to  attorneys  in  general  is  exactly  opposite  to 

and  the   Law  19 

that  which  every  man  gives  to  his  own  attorney  in 
particular  ?  Whom  does  anybody  trust  so  imphcitly  as 
he  trusts  his  own  attorney,  and  yet  is  it  not  the  case  that 
the  body  of  attorneys  is  supposed  to  be  the  most  roguish 
body  in  existence  ? 

But  if  the  lawyer  has  been  unjustly 
maligned  in  literature,  he  may  console  him- 
self that  he  is  not  alone.  The  other 
professions  have  suffered  in  the  same  way. 
As  regards  the  Church,  is  not  fiction  full  of 
pictures  of  the  lazy  and  the  hypocritical 
parson  ?  As  regards  medicine,  have  not 
doctors  been  brutally  caricatured  as  quacks 
who  "  thrust  drugs  of  which  they  know  little 
into  bodies  of  which  they  know  less"? 
And  is  not  such  criticism  the  outcome  of  the 
same  baneful  tendency  to  generalise,  and 
subject  to  the  same  curious  anomaly,  that  the 
critic  who  indulges  in  the  cheap  sneer  at  the 
body,  is  often  the  earnest  believer  in  the 
individual  ?  Outside  of  the  professions  the 
same   mis-description    prevails    in    literature. 

2  0  Charles   Dickens 

Are  not  many  novels  built  upon  imaginary 
mercantile  transactions  which,  as  the  business 
world  is  constituted,  would  be  simply 
impossible  in  real  life,  and  have  not 
merchants  and  traders  and  others  been 
traduced  for  the  purposes  of  sensational 
fiction?  Dr.  Johnson's  crabbed  definition  of 
a  stockbroker  as  "  a  low  wretch  who  gets  his 
money  by  buying  and  selling  shares  in  the 
funds,"  is  as  much  out  of  harmony  with  the 
truth  as  are  many  imaginary  definitions  in 
fiction  of  the  parson,  or  the  doctor,  or  the 

But  I  am  at  present  more  particularly 
concerned  only  with  Dickens'  attitude 
towards  the  law,  and  with  the  lawyer  as 
painted  by  Dickens.  His  method  is  not  the 
common  one  of  unreasoning  denunciation  of 
a  class.  He  knew  better  than  to  represent 
all  lawyers  as  rogues,  for  he  had  the 
advantage   of  knowing  the   legal   profession 

and  the  Law  2 1 

from  the  inside.  He  never  lays  down  bad 
law,  and  he  never  credits  a  member  of  the 
legal  profession  with  impossible  professional 

But  even  Dickens  could  not  divest  himself 
of  the  common  habit  of  allowing  personal 
experience  to  colour  his  views.  The  plunger 
who,  in  his  haste  to  be  rich,  stakes  and  loses 
on  the  Stock  Exchange,  immediately  pro- 
ceeds to  revile  his  stockbroker,  whose  only 
interest  in  the  business  was  the  earning  of  a 
modest  commission.  Smarting  under  the 
loss  of  money  in  an  unfortunate  speculation, 
the  client  is  ready  to  adopt  Dr.  Johnson's 
definition  of  a  stockbroker.  So  also  the  man 
who  is  unfortunate  in  his  appeal  to  the  law 
is  often  too  ready  to  say  with  Mr.  Bumble, 
the  parochial  beadle  in  "Oliver  Twist,"  that 
"the  law  is  a  ass — a  idiot."  Every  lawyer 
knows  only  too  well  that  the  layman 
is    too    apt    to    form    his    opinions    of    the 

2  2  Charles  Dickens 

law  generally  according  as  the  law  has  been 
kind  or  has  been  cruel  to  him  personally  ; 
and  so,  in  regarding  the  legal  scenes  and 
characters  in  Dickens'  works,  it  is  useful 
always  to  bear  in  mind  that  Dickens  didjiot 
love  the  law.  Nor  was  his  resentment  a 
passing  phase.  His  hatred  of  the  Court  of 
Chancery  began  with  his  own  experience  as 
a  suitor.  He  was  involved  in  a  Chancery 
lawsuit  over  the  piracy  of  his  "  Christmas 
Carol"  and  "Martin  Chuzzlewit."  He  was 
entirely  successful,  for  the  lawsuit  resulted  in 
the  pirates  making  a  public  apology.  The 
judgment  of  the  Court  also  found  them  liable 
in  costs,  but  unfortunately  the  costs  were 
not  recovered,  and  Dickens  had  the  not 
uncommon  experience  of  securing  a  victory 
at  law,  but  having  himself  to  pay  for  it.  In 
the  first  blush  of  his  victory  he  wrote 
exuberandy  : 

The    pirates    are    beaten    flat.      They   are   bruised, 

and  the  Law  23 

bloody,    battered,     smashed,     squelched,    and     utterly 

But  when  his  bill  of  costs  came  in,  and 

the  pirates  went  insolvent,  and  could  not  pay, 

his    exuberance    was    modified.      There    is 

nothing  so  effective  in  modifying  exuberant 

jollity   as    a    lawyer's    bill.       Dickens — like 

many    another     litigant — visited    upon     the 

Court  the  sins  of  the  opposing  litigant.      It 

was   not   the   fault   of    the    Court    that   the 

pirates  could  not  pay  the  costs,  but  Dickens 

counted    it   against   the   Court  nevertheless, 

and  when,  within  a  couple  of  years,  he  again 

experienced  piracy,  he  preferred  to  bear  the 

ills  he  had  rather  than  fly  to  others  that,  as 

regards  the  attendant  cost,  he  knew  not  of. 

Once  bitten,  twice  shy.     He  declined  again 

to  resort  to  the  law,  and  wrote  thus  bitterly 

of  his  former  experience  : 

I  shall   not   easily  forget   the   expense,  and  anxiety, 
and  horrible  injustice  of  the  "  Carol "  case. 

24  Charles   Dickens 

Strong  language  is  excusable  on  the  part 

of  a  litigant  who  fights  a  lawsuit  and  loses  it, 

and  has  to  pay  for  the  losing  of  it.       Still 

stronger  excuse    is  there  for  the  ire  of  the 

man  who  fights  a  lawsuit,  and  gains  it,  and 

has  to  pay  the  costs  of  gaining  it.      But  what 

may  seem  at  the  time  injustice  and  anxiety 

are  forgettable  elements.     Even  the  expense 

in  time  the  average  suitor  can  forget.      But 

Dickens  never  forgot.     This  early  experience 

coloured  not  only  his  opinion  of  the  Chancery 

Court,  but  his  opinion  of  the  law  generally. 

Thirty  years    later,  in  a  private  letter — and 

that,  too,  a  letter  to  a  lady — he  wrote  : 

I  have  that  high  opinion  of  the  law  of  England 
generally  which  one  is  likely  to  derive  from  the  impression 
that  it  puts  all  the  honest  men  under  the  diabolical 
hoofs  of  all  the  scoundrels.  It  makes  me  cautious  of 
doing  right — an  admirable  instance  of  its  wisdom. 

This  sweeping  sarcastic  comment  indicates 

that  his  attitude  towards  the  whole  judicial 

system  was  hostile,  and,  I   venture  to  think, 

and  the  Law  2^ 

somewhat  unreasonable.  That  there  were 
abuses  in  his  day,  as  there  are  in  the  present 
day,  goes  without  saying.  No  system  of  law 
is  incapable  of  abuse.  In  all  his  works 
Dickens  no  doubt  aimed  at  calling  public 
attention  to  abuses,  with  the  hope  of  their 
being  remedied,  and  in  this  instance,  as  in 
others,  that  aim  was  good.  But  even  the 
greatest  men  are  at  times  small,  and,  in  this 
matter,  it  seems  very  plain  that  he  was  in 
such  a  novel  as  "  Bleak  House"  working  off 
his  personal  hatred  of  the  Chancery  Court  of 
England,  as  well  as  showing  up  the  abuses 
to  which  the  practice  of  that  Court  lent 

The  greatest  novel  of  the  law  which 
Dickens  produced — the  most  effective  tale  of 
the  law,  I  think,  ever  written — was  "Bleak 
House."  It  begins  and  ends  in  the  Court 
of  Chancery,  and  there  is — from  beginning 
to    end    of    the    long    tale — not     a    single 

2  6  Charles   Dickens 

character  who  can  be  said  to  be  outside  of 
the  influence  of  the  dominating  legal  element. 
In  some  of  his  other  books  the  law  plays  an 
important  part,  but  it  only  plays  a  part. 
There  are  other  parts  to  play,  and  other 
interests  to  introduce.  But  in  "  Bleak 
House  "  the  atmosphere  of  the  law  prevails 
throughout.  Judges  and  Chancery  Court 
officials,  barristers,  solicitors,  law  clerks,  law 
stationers,  detectives  and  police  inspectors, 
litigants,  singly  or  in  groups,  always  occupy 
the  stage,  and  every  incident  of  the  tale  has 
a  legal  environment.  Perhaps  this  very  fact 
explains  why  "  Bleak  House,"  although,  as  I 
at  least  think,  the  most  powerful  sustained 
effort  which  Dickens  made,  is  not  his  most 
popular  novel.  The  legal  characters  are 
perhaps  more  subtly  drawn,  but  they  do  not 
stand  out  of  the  canvas  in  the  same  way  as, 
for  instance,  the  popular  legal  characters  in 
the  "  Pickwick  Papers."     To  the  experienced 

and  the  Law  27 

lawyer  there  is  a  very  subtle  humour  in  the 
interminable  arguments  of  the  Chancery 
barristers  in  the  suit  upon  which  the  tale  in 
"  Bleak  House"  is  built;  but  the  humour  is 
often  missed  by  the  lay  reader,  who  more 
readily  understands  the  lawyers  of  the  "  Pick- 
wick Papers."  The  deferential  Chancery 
solicitors  of  "Bleak  House"  are,  from  a 
professional  point  of  view,  perhaps  more 
interesting  studies  of  legal  character  than 
bustling  practitioners  like  Perker,  or  Dodson 
&  Fogg  of  "  Pickwick."  But  to  the 
general  reader  they  do  not  appeal.  Mr. 
Tangle,  K.C.,  and  Kenge  &  Carboy,  the 
Chancery  solicitors  of  "  Bleak  House," 
will  never  grip  the  public  imagination  like 
Sergeant  Buzfuz  and  Dodson  &  Fogg 
of  "  Pickwick."  All  that  he  knew  of  the 
law  and  of  the  Law  Courts  Dickens  put  into 
"  Bleak  House."  The  plot  itself  is  not  an 
original  one  in  its  inception,  but  its  develop- 

2  8  Charles  Dickens 

ment  and  its  finish  are  new.  Many  law- 
suits have  been  described  in  the  pages 
of  fiction,  but  never  one  like  /ariidyce 
and  Jarndyce,  the  Chancery  suit  which 
in  the  opening  chapter  is  described  as 
"that  scarecrow  of  a  suit  which  has  in 
course  of  time  become  so  complicated 
that  no  man  alive  knows  what  it  means.'' 
This  lawsuit  drove  some  of  the  parties  to 
it  into  their  graves,  and  others  into  lunatic 
asylums ;  and  in  the  end  fittingly  died  of 
inanition,  the  whole  estate  which  was  the 
subject  of  the  litigation  having  melted  .away 
in  costs. 

I  think  that  Dickens  was  too  hard  upon 
the  Chancery  Court.  As  I  have  said,  his 
vision  of  it  was  coloured  by  his  own 
unfortunate  experience.  But  the  moral  of 
"  Bleak  House,"  nevertheless,  was  not  un- 
needed — although  morals,  where  most  needed, 
not  infrequently  are  most  unheeded.      The 

and  the   Law  29 

law's  delay  is  an  old  grievance,  and  it  is 
to  be  feared  that  no  system  of  legal 
procedure  can  ever  entirely  avoid  that.  But 
the  methods  of  all  British  Courts  of  law 
have  vastly  improved  since  Dickens'  day,  and 
the  improvements  in  Chancery  Court  practice 
probably  owe  more  than  its  officials  would 
care  to  admit  to  the  exposure  of  the  judicial 
methods  which  Dickens  made  in  "  Bleak 
House."  In  his  enthusiasm  for  reform,  how- 
ever, Dickens  forgot  that  if  there  were  no 
litigants  there  would  be  no  lawsuits,  and  that 
Courts  of  law  are  very  often  what  litigants 
make  them.  It  is  a  common  experience 
that  illustrated  so  gloomily  throughout  this 
book — the  effort  of  a  litigant  to  extract  for 
himself  something  out  of  a  lawsuit  which  he 
would  have  been  well  advised  never  to  have 
entered  upon,  and  then,  when  his  efforts  have 
resulted  in  nothing,  the  tendency  of  the 
litigant,    not    to   blame  himself  for  entering 

30  Charles   Dickens 

upon  a  wild-goose  chase,  but  rather  to 
blame  the  judge,  or  the  Court  system,  or 
his  own  lawyers,  or  the  opposing  lawyers, 
or  anything,  or  anybody,  other  than 

The  picture  of  the  Court  of  Chancery  upon 
a  foggy  November  day,  with  which  "  Bleak 
House  "  opens,  has  never  been  equalled  as  a 
setting  of  judicial  environment.  The  descrip- 
tions of  Courts  in  novels  are  often  as 
imaginative  as  the  law  in  them. 

Dickens  knew  the  Courts  too  well  to  fall 
into  the  common  error  of  laying  his  Court 
scenes  in  a  false  setting.  In  his  early 
days  he  had  opportunities  of  studying  the 
solemnities  of  the  law,  first,  as  a  youth 
in  the  office  of  Messrs.  Ellis  &  Blackmore, 
later,  as  a  junior  law  clerk  in  the  office 
of  Mr.  Molloy,  of  6  Symonds'  Inn,  who 
was  the  prototype  of  Mr.  Vholes,  the 
solicitor  for  Richard  Carstone  in  the  "  Bleak 

and  the   Law  3  i 

House "  Chancery  suit,  and  later  still  as  a 
shorthand  Court  reporter.  He  had  himself 
also  at  one  time  the  idea  of  becoming  a 
barrister,  and  actually  kept  a  few  terms  in  one 
of  the  Inns  of  Court,  but  he  abandoned  the 
legal  profession  for  that  of  literature.  Dickens 
also  had  many  lawyer  friends,  and  numbered 
amongst  his  intimates  such  men  as  Talfourd, 
Denman,  Campbell,  and  Hawkins. 

In  daily  association  with  the  judicial  solem- 
nities, it  was  impossible  for  him,  even  when 
setting  out  to  caricature  the  Chancery  Court 
system,  to  present  other  than  a  realistic  picture 
of  the  Chancery  Court  itself.  In  all  Dickens' 
writings  I  know  of  nothing  which  better 
illustrates  that  natural  capacity  of  his  for 
absorbing  small  details,  which  is  the  great 
charm  of  his  descriptions  of  places  and 
people,  than  the  brief  description  of  the 
Chancery  Court  in  the  opening  chapter  of 
"Bleak   House."      The  Court   itself,    "dim 

3  2  Charles  Dickens 

with  wasting  candles  here  and  there,"  the 
Lord  Chancellor  on  the  bench,  "  with  a 
foggy  glory  round  his  head  softly  fenced 
in  with  crimson  cloth  and  curtains."  This 
judge,  and  Justice  Starleigh,  who  presided 
at  the  Pickwick  trial,  are  Dickens'  two 
contrast  pictures  of  the  bench.  The  Lord 
Chancellor  in  "  Bleak  House "  is  always 
courteous  and  polished,  and  betrays  nothing 
of  the  boredom  which  the  case  oi  Jarndyce 
mid  Jarndyce  was  bound  to  inflict.  He  is 
courteous  to  Mr.  Tangle,  K.C.,  the  "large 
advocate  with  great  whiskers  and  a  little 
voice."  He  is  courteous  also  to  "  a  very  little 
counsel  with  a  terrific  bass  voice,  who  arises 
fully  inflated  in  the  back  settlements  of  the 
fog."  Still  more  courteous  is  the  Lord 
Chancellor  receiving  the  two  young  wards 
in  his  own  room.  To  this  judge  Dickens 
has  as  kindly  a  leaning  as  he,  by  contrast, 
had  an  unkindly  feeling  to  Justice  Starleigh. 

and  the  Law  33 

In  his  Court,  and  about  this  judge,  the 
atmosphere  of  diginity  which  surrounds  the 
Chancellor  is  altogether  absent. 

Mr.  Justice  Starleigh  was  a  most  particularly  short 
man,  and  so  fat  that  he  seemed  all  face  and  waistcoat. 
He  rolled  in  upon  two  little  turned  legs,  and  having 
bobbed  gravely  to  the  bar,  who  bobbed  gravely  to  him, 
put  his  little  legs  underneath  his  table,  and  his  little 
three-cornered  hat  upon  it,  and  when  Mr.  Justice 
Starleigh  had  done  this,  all  you  could  see  of  him  was  two 
queer  little  eyes,  one  broad  pink  face,  and  somewhere 
about  half  of  a  very  big  and  very  comical-looking  wig. 

Speaking  of  judges  generally  in  his 
"  American  Notes,"  Dickens  voices  a  very 
common  idea  of  Courts  of  law.  Many 
people  can  never  dissociate  the  idea  of  stage 
effect  from  a  Court.  These  people  regard  a 
Court  as  a  set  scene,  in  which  every  one  has 
a  set  part  to  take  ;  and  perhaps  in  a  sense 
they  are  not  far  wrong,  for  there  is  an 
absence  of  individualism  about  a  law  Court. 
For  the  time  being  the  barrister  is  not  him- 

34  Charles  Dickens 

self,  but  his  client,  lookinor  at  thinos  from  the 
client's  point  of  view  ;  for  the  time  being  the 
judge  is  not  an  individual  with  personal 
opinions,  but  is  the  embodiment  of  the  law, 
for  the  making  of  which  he  is  not  responsible, 
but  only  for  its  application.  In  the 
"American  Notes"  Dickens  makes  this 
quaint  remark  : 

There  is  undoubtedly  a  degree  of  protection  in  the  wig 
and  gown,  a  dismissal  of  individual  responsibility  in 
dressing  for  the  part. 

To  Dickens  himself,  the  irascible  little 
judge  whom  he  created  to  preside  at  the  trial  of 
Bardell  v.  Pickwick  had  a  special  fascination. 
Justice  Starleigh  was  one  of  his  own  creations 
whom  he  loved  to  impersonate.  In  that 
recently-published  delightful  book  by  R.  C. 
Lehmann.  entitled  "  Memories  of  Half  a 
Century,"  there  is  described  a  reading  given 
by  Dickens  of  the  Pickwick  trial  scene,  in 
the  course  of  which  Mr.  Lehmann  says  : 

and  the  Law  35 

I  shall  never  forget  my  amazement  when  Dickens 
assumed  the  character  of  Mr.  Justice  Starleigh.  The 
face  and  figure  that  I  knew,  that  I  had  seen  on  the  stage 
a  moment  before,  seemed  to  vanish  as  if  by  magic,  and 
there  appeared  instead  a  fat,  pompous,  pursy  little  man 
with  a  plump  imbecile  face  from  which  every  vestige  of 
good  temper  and  cheerfulness,  everything,  in  fact,  except 
an  expression  of  self-sufficient  stupidity,  had  been 
removed.  The  upper  lip  had  become  long,  the  corners  of 
the  mouth  drooped,  the  nose  was  short  and  podgy,  all  the 
angles  of  the  chin  had  gone,  the  chin  itself  had  receded 
into  the  throat,  and  the  eyes,  lately  so  humorous  and 
human,  had  become  as  malicious  and  obstinate  as  those 
of  a  pig.     It  was  a  marvellous  effect  in  transformation. 

Nevertheless,  Justice  Starleigh  is  the  familiar 
friend  of  every  Dickens  reader,  whilst  the 
polished  Lord  Chancellor  lives  in  the  recol- 
lection of  but  few. 

Of  the  three  leading  solicitors  of  "  Bleak 
House,"  two  are  of  a  somewhat  characterless 
type.  They  are  both  in  Chancery  practice, 
which  does  not  seem  to  lend  itself  to  any 
great  individuality  of  character.  "  Conver- 
sation Kenge,"  as  he  was  called,  of  the  firm 

36  Charles  Dickens 

of  Kenge  &  Carboy,  the  solicitors  for  Mr. 
Jarndyce,  is  but  a  more  successful  and 
therefore  a  more  cheerful  edition  of  the 
melancholy  Mr.  Vholes,  the  solicitor  for 
Richard  Carstone.  In  Dickens'  books  the 
names  of  his  characters  are  often  full  of 
significance.  Mr.  Vholes  is  an  instance  of 
that,  a  "  vole "  in  a  card  orame  meaning"  a 
deal  where  all  the  winning  cards  fall  to  the 
dealer.  It  was  in  "Bleak  House"  that 
Dickens  said,  "The  one  great  principle  of 
the  English  law  is  to  make  business  for 
itself."  Solicitors  created  upon  this  low 
estimate  of  their  profession,  could  not  well 
be  particularly  interesting.  The  Chancery 
solicitors  of  "Bleak  House"  are  none  of 
them  very  lovable  characters.  They  are  too 
respectable  and  too  commonplace.  Take, 
for  instance,  the  portrait  of  Mr.  Vholes. 

Mr.  Vholes  is  a  very  respectable  man.     He  has  not  a 
very  large  business,  but  he  is  a  very  respectable  man. 

and  the  Law  37 

He  is  allowed  by  the  greater  attorneys  who  have  made 
good  fortunes,  or  are  making  them,  to  be  a  most 
respectable  man.  He  never  misses  a  chance  in  his 
practice,  which  is  a  mark  of  respectability;  he  never 
takes  any  pleasure,  which  is  another  mark  of  respecta- 
bility ;  he  is  reserved  and  serious,  which  is  also  a  mark 
of  respectability;  his  digestion  is  impaired,  which  is 
highly  respectable ;  he  is  making  hay  of  the  grass  which 
is  flesh,  for  his  three  daughters  and  his  father  are 
dependent  on  him  in  the  Vale  of  Taunton. 

The  third  leading  solicitor  of  "  Bleak 
House"  is  a  very  marked  contrast  to  the 
other  two.  There  is  nothing  commonplace 
about  Mr.  Tulkinghorn,  the  family  solicitor 
of  Sir  Leicester  Dedlock,  and  the  confi- 
dential depositary  of  the  secrets  of  the  great. 
Mr.  Tulkinghorn  of  Lincoln's  Inn  Fields  is, 
in  my  opinion,  by  far  the  most  finished 
creation  amongst  all  the  Dickens  lawyers. 
This  lawyer  tersely,  but  comprehensively, 
defined  as  "an  oyster  of  the  old  school 
whom  nobody  can  open,"  combines  an 
old-school      courtesy      with     the      ferreting 

3  8  Charles   Dickens 

proclivities  of  a  Scotland  Yard  detec- 
tive. From  the  time  he  appears  at  old 
Crooks'  rag  store,  in  search  of  information 
about  the  poverty-stricken  law  writer,  till  his 
dramatic  end  by  being  shot,  the  action  of  the 
story  turns  upon  him  even  more  than  upon 
the  Chancery  suit  itself 

In  "  Bleak  House,"  lower  down  in  the 
professional  scale,  we  find  a  greater  wealth 
of  character  than  amongst  the  barristers  or- 
attorneys,  and,  in  real  human  interest,  none 
of  the  legal  characters  approaches  to  "  the 
young  man  of  the  name  of  Guppy,"  the  law 
clerk  of  Kenge  &  Carboy.  As  a  study  in 
law  life  he  is  most  interesting.  He  first 
appears  when  sent  by  Mr.  Kenge  to  meet 
the  Chancery  wards,  and  he  is  introduced 
in  a  few  brief  words,  descriptive  of  the 
office  boy  of  all  time — "a  young  gendeman 
who  had  inked  himself  by  accident." 
He   rapidly   developed    under   the    influence 

and   the   Law  39 

of  these  "chords  in  the  human  heart  "  which 
it  was  his  gloomy  delight  to  strike.  His 
proposal  of  marriage  to  Miss  Summerson, 
"  without  prejudice,"  is  in  the  best  vein  of 
Dickens  humour. 

We  read  in  the  Life  of  Dickens  how 
vividly  he  realised  the  characters  he  was 
creatino- — how  he  laucrhed  aloud  as  the  comic 
creations  grew  under  his  pen — how  he  wept 
as  he  chronicled  sadness.  I  often  think  with 
what  delight  he  must  have  painted  the  por- 
trait of  "  the  young  man  of  the  name  of 
Guppy."  Dickens  could  enter  into  the 
feelings  of  just  such  a  young  man,  for  he  had 
himself  been  a  young  law  clerk,  and  he  had 
a  real  love  for  the  law  clerk  who  figures  in 
so  many  of  his  books,  and  of  whom  he  had 
never  an  unkind  word  to  say. 

There  are  several  grades  of  lawyer's  clerks.  There 
is  the  articled  clerk  who  has  paid  a  premium,  and 
is  an  attorney  in  perspective,  who  runs  a  tailor's  bill, 

40  Charles   Dickens 

receives  invitations  to  parties,  knows  a  family  in  Gower 
Street  and  another  in  Tavistock  Square,  who  goes  out  of 
town  every  long  vacation  to  see  his  father  who  keeps 
innumerable  horses,  and  who  is,  in  short,  the  very 
aristocrat  of  clerks. 

When  David  Copperfield  was  articled  to 
Spenlow  &  Jorkins,  his  aunt,  Betsy  Trot- 
wood,  had  to  put  down  a  premium  of 
^looo  for  him,  and  he  got  no  salary. 

Then  there  is  the  salaried  clerk — out-of-door  or 
indoor  as  the  case  may  be — who  devotes  the  major  part 
of  his  thirty  shillings  a  week  to  his  personal  pleasure  and 
adornments,  repairs  half-price  to  the  Adelphi  Theatre  at 
least  three  times  a  week,  dissipates  majestically  at  the 
cider  cellars  afterwards,  and  is  a  dirty  caricature  of  the 
fashion  which  expired  six  months  ago.  Then  there  is 
the  middle-aged  copying  clerk  who  is  always  shabby  and 
often  drunk,  and  there  are  the  office  lads  in  their  iirst 
surtouts,  who  feel  a  befitting  contempt  for  boys  at  day 
schools,  club  as  they  go  home  at  night  for  saveloys  and 
porter,  and  think  there's  nothing  like  life. 

"  The  young  man  of  the  name  of  Guppy  " 
belong^ed  to  the  better  class  of  salaried  clerk, 

and  the  Law  41 

but  he  had  ambition  beyond  that  sphere,  and 
he  was  appreciated  by  his  employers,  for  we 
find  him,  in  the  closing  chapter  of  the  book, 
able  to  represent  to  Miss  Summerson  in 
pressing  his  suit  that  he  had  now  been 
presented  with  his  articles  by  Kenge  & 
Carboy,  and  so  was  on  the  first  rung  of  the 
ladder  towards  being  a  Chancery  practitioner. 
The  "chords  in  the  human  heart"  are  the 
attributes  of  "  the  young  man  of  the  name  of 
Guppy  "  which  the  general  reader  of  "  Bleak 
House"  mostly  recollects.  But  his  love 
story  was  only  one  side  of  Mr.  Guppy — not 
all  of  him,  and  other  and  suggestive  aspects 
of  his  nature  are  disclosed  by  such  episodes 
as  the  way  he  stood  by  his  friend  Tony 
Jobling,  who  had  gone  down  hill,  the  part 
he  took  in  unearthing  the  secret  of  Lady 
Dedlock  and  Miss  Summerson,  his  devotion 
to  Miss  Summerson,  at  whose  request  he 
desisted  from  investigating  the  clue  he  had, 

42  Charles   Dickens 

and  his  kindness  to  and  firm  belief  in  his 
mother.  I  am  persuaded  that  Charles 
Dickens  intended  "  the  young  man  of  the 
name  of  Guppy  "  to  go  down  to  posterity  a 
type  in  his  own  sphere  of  one  of  Nature's 
gentlemen,  who,  as  a  law  clerk,  was  faithful 
to  his  employer's  interests,  and  also  ambi- 
tious for  his  own  advancement  in  the 
profession  ;  who,  as  a  lover,  was  constant  to 
"  the  image  enshrined  upon  his  heart,"  and 
who  in  general  was  an  all-round  good 

In  "Bleak  House"  the  law  takes  on  a 
sombre  aspect,  but  in  the  "  Pickwick  Papers  " 
the  whole  legal  aspect  is  cheerful.  None 
of  the  lawyers  there  is  tinged  with  melan- 
choly. They  are  all  of  the  lively  and 
cheerful  sort.  Take  Perker,  for  instance, 
Mr.  Pickwick's  own  legal  adviser — 

A  little  high-dried  man  with  a  dark  squeezed-up  face 
and  small  restless  black  eyes,   that  kept  winking  and 

and  the  Law  ^3 

twinkling  on  each  side  of  his  little  inquisitive  nose,  as  if 
they  were  playing  a  perpetual  game  of  peep-bo 
with  that  feature.  He  was  dressed  all  in  black,  with 
boots  as  shiny  as  his  eyes,  a  low  white  neckcloth  and  a 
clean  shirt  with  a  frill  to  it.  A  gold  watch  chain  and 
seals  depended  from  his  fob.  He  carried  his  black  kid 
gloves  in  his  hands,  not  on  them,  and  as  he  spoke, 
thrust  his  wrists  beneath  his  coat-tails  with  the  air  of  a 
man  who  was  in  the  habit  of  propounding  some  regular 

Is  not  Perker  the  familiar  type  of  the 
self-confident,  but  not  brilliant,  legal  adviser, 
who  is  as  well  known  in  legal  circles  now 
as  then  ?  But  before  Dodson  &  Fogg 
Perker  pales  in  legal  interest.  Although 
Dickens'  only  contribution  to  the  literature 
of  the  law  had  been  his  creation  of 
Dodson  &  Fogg,  he  would  have  taken  a 
first  place  as  the  portrayer  of  legal  character. 
The  hold  upon  the  public  imagination  which 
this  firm  has  acquired  is  wonderful.  An 
illustration  of  this  realism  occurred  not  very 
long  ago,  when  a  jury  awarded  to  a  solicitor 

44  Charles  Dickens 

damages  against  a  client  who  had  called  him 
"a  regular  Dodson  &  Fogg." 

From  the  lawyer's  point  of  view  one 
is  tempted  to  inquire  whether,  after  all, 
the  commonly  accepted  view  of  Dodson 
&  Fogg  is  warranted.  They  have  been 
held  up  to  ignominy  as  unscrupulous  petti- 
foggers, and  they  will  probably  continue  to 
be  so  regarded.  But  a  lawyer  does  not 
create  the  facts  of  a  case.  He  gets  them 
from  his  client,  and  Mrs.  Bardell's  case  was 
undoubtedly,  as  put  before  her  solicitors,  a 
good  jury  case.  It  is  a  striking  thing  that 
the  evidence  upon  which  she  got  a 
verdict  was  entirely  the  evidence  of  Mr. 
Pickwick's  own  friends.  Mr.  Winkle,  Mr. 
Tupman,  and  Mr.  Snodgrass  were  all  what 
lawyers  call  "hostile  witnesses."  So  was 
Sam  Weller.  The  jury,  of  course,  knew 
that  they  were  the  defendant's  own  friends, 
and  no  kind  of  evidence  so  tells  with  a  jury 

and  the  Law  ^^ 

as  admissions  wrung  in  cross-examination 
from  a  reluctant  friend  witness.  In  a  case 
of  the  sort,  what  damaging  admissions  these 
friends  had  to  make !  Dodson  &  Foo-o- 
were  acute  practitioners  who  astutely  re- 
frained from  overdoing  their  case.  They 
contented  themselves  with  proving  their  case 
out  of  the  mouths  of  Mr.  Pickwick's  own 
friends.  It  was  not  buttressed  by  what  we 
call  collateral  evidence.  Mr.  Pickwick's 
experiences  would  not  have  been  difficult 
to  trace.  What  if  Dodson  &  Fogg 
had,  for  instance,  called  his  friend  Mr. 
Wardle  and  others  to  speak  to  Mr.  Pick- 
wick's general  behavour  ?  Of  course  we 
know  that  the  kissing  of  ladies,  old  and 
young,  and  being  kissed  by  them,  was  all 
part  of  the  general  jollity  at  the  hospitable 
Wardle's  country  home.  Of  course  we  all 
know  that  there  was  nothing  but  benevolent 
intention  in   Mr.   Pickwick's  being  found  at 

46  Charles   Dickens 

midnight  in  the  grounds  of  a  young  ladies' 
boarding  school.  Of  course  we  know  that  it 
was  entirely  owing  to  a  geographical  error 
that  Mr.  Pickwick  found  himself  in  a  lady's 
bedroom  in  the  hotel  at  Ipswich.  But  the 
jury  did  not  know  all  this,  and  such  circum- 
stances would  have  been  quite  relevant  to 
make  out  a  general  character  for  frivolity 
and  gallantry  against  the  unfortunate 
Pickwick.  The  general  character  of  the 
defendant  is  a  not  unimportant  element  in 
such  cases,  and  Dodson  &  Fogg  might 
have  disclosed  much  more  than  they 
did  to  influence  a  jury.  That  they  did  not 
attempt  this  certainly  stamps  them  as 
experienced  lawyers,  who  knew  when  they 
had  a  good  case  in  brief  compass,  and  so 
refrained  from  making  the  very  common 
error  of  overlaying  such  a  case,  with  the 
possible  result  of  strangling  it.  Then,  in 
such  cases,  the  demeanour  of  the  parties  is 

and   the  Law  ^y 

always  an  element  with  the  jury.  A  view  of 
the  plaintiff  commonly  entertained  is  that 
she  was  a  fat  and  by  no  means  attractive 
elderly  female,  but  the  well-known  picture  by 
Browne  of  Mrs.  Bardell  fainting  away  and 
being  discovered  in  Mr.  Pickwick's  arms  by 
his  three  friends  represents  her  as  a  plump 
and  comely  widow,  and  it  is  quite  likely  that 
at  the  trial  the  personal  appearance  of  the 
distressed  plaintiff  had  its  due  weight  with 
the  jury.  If  she  had  not  been  comely 
Dodson  &  Fogg  were  certainly  too  astute  to 
have  presented  her  in  Court.  There  was 
ample  evidence  to  support  the  verdict  of  the 
jury.  If  it  had  not  been  so,  Perker  would 
no  doubt  have  applied  for  a  new  trial.  But  he 
recognised  that  the  evidence  was  sufficient, 
for  he  accepted  the  verdict. 

Dickens  wrote  before  the  days  when  it 
was  competent  to  examine  the  parties  in 
their   own    suits.      In   present-day   practice, 

48  Charles  Dickens 

the  leading  features  of  a  breach  of  promise 
suit  are  the  examination  of  the  fair  plaintiff, 
and  the  cross-examination  of  the  perturbed 
defendant.  What  a  pity  that  was  not 
permissible  in  Dickens'  day.  What  cross- 
examination  Mr.  Pickwick  would  have  been 
subjected  to  by  Serjeant  Buzfuz,  and 
how  Pickwick  would  have  lost  his  temper 
and  given  his  case  away.  But  Dickens 
was  too  loyal  to  the  law  to  put  Mr. 
Pickwick  into  the  witness-box  in  the 
book,  when  he  could  not  have  done  so  in 
the  Court  itself.  He  contented  himself 
with  putting  into  the  speech  of  Serjeant 
Buzfuz  the  points  which  could,  with  telling 
effect,  have  been  made  the  basis  of  a  cross- 
examination  scene. 

There  seems  therefore  nothing  out  of  the 
ordinary  course  as  regards  the  conduct  of  the 
trial.  The  subsequent  behaviour  of  Dodson 
&  Fogg  was  in  accordance  with  the  ideas  of 

and  the   Law  49 

the  time.  Of  course,  looking  at  it  from  our 
twentieth-century  point  of  view,  it  may 
appear  monstrous  that  Mr.  Pickwick  should 
have  been  incarcerated  because  he  refused 
to  implement  the  jury's  verdict,  and  possibly 
still  more  monstrous  that  Mrs.  Bardell  also 
should  have  found  herself  in  the  Fleet 
because  she  would  not  pay  Dodson  &  Fogg's 
costs.  But  we  have  to  recollect  that,  in 
Dickens'  day,  a  debtor  who  failed  to  pay  his 
debt  could,  as  the  law  expressed  it,  have  his 
person  taken  in  execution.  Even  at  the 
present  time  people  are  sent  to  prison 
every  day  because  they  will  not  pay  certain 
kinds  of  debt.  No  doubt  the  incarceration 
of  a  debtor  who  is  unable  to  pay  his  creditor 
is  always  hard.  But  no  such  element  existed 
in  Mr.  Pickwick's  case.  Upon  the  verdict 
of  the  jury  the  Court  had  adjudged  him 
debtor  to  Mrs.  Bardell  for  the  damages 
awarded,    and    debtor    to    Dodson   &    Fogg 

50  Charles   Dickens 

for  their  costs.  Mr.  Pickwick  was  quite 
able  to  pay,  and  it  was,  accordingly,  Dod- 
son  &  Fogg's  professional  duty  to  their 
client  to  recover  her  damages,  and  their  duty 
to  themselves  to  recover  their  costs.  To 
effect  this  they  were  doing  no  more  than  the 
law  permitted  when  they  put  Mr.  Pickwick — 
and  ultimately  Mrs.  Bardell  herself — into  the 
Fleet.  Their  anxiety  to  recover  their  costs 
the  general  reader  does  not  appreciate,  and 
perhaps  Dickens'  own  experience  of  law 
costs  in  the  piracy  case  before  referred  to, 
which  rankled  in  his  mind,  may  have  led 
him  unconsciously  to  unduly  emphasise  the 
element  of  the  costs,  and  to  forget  that,  after 
all,  a  lawyer's  bill  is  a  debt  just  as  much  as  a 
tailor's  bill. 

It  is  a  tendency  of  lay  human  nature  to 
regard  a  lawyer's  bill  as  somehow  different 
from  any  other  kind  of  debt.  There  are 
some  people  who  have  an  idea  that  a  lawyer 

and  the  Law  5 1 

should  be  the  benefactor,  as  well  as  the 
adviser,  of  his  client,  that  when  a  litigation 
has  been  lost,  for  instance,  the  lawyer 
should  not  press  for  his  costs,  and  that  at 
any  rate  there  is  never  any  hurry  for 
paying  a  lawyer's  bill.  The  prevalence 
of  ideas  of  that  sort,  and  the  popular 
suspicion  of  the  law  entertained  by  so 
large  a  proportion  of  humanity,  probably 
explain  why  Dodson  &  Fogg  have,  in 
the  public  mind,  became  synonymous  with 
chicanery  and  harsh  dealing ;  but  upon  a 
fair  and  impartial  weighing  of  their  recorded 
sayings  and  doings  there  may  be  room  for 
some  doubt  as  to  whether  they  have  not 
been  unjustly  vilified. 

I  have  always  wondered  whether  Dickens 
himself  ever  contemplated  that  Dodson  & 
Fogg  would  come  to  be  associated  in  the 
public  mind  with  all  that  is  mean  and  tricky 
in  the  practice  of  the  law.      I  am  inclined  to 

52  Charles   Dickens 

think  that  he  did  not,  and  that  he  really  had  in 
his  mind  a  much  broader  aim  than  merely  to 
pillory  the  speculative  lawyer,  who  has  existed 
in  all  time,  and  exists  to-day,  and  is  not  with- 
out his  uses  in  the  legal  world.  The  history 
of  the  famous  lawsuit  of  Bardell  v.  Pickwick 
was,  I  think,  intended  to  be  taken  as  a  whole, 
and,  so  regarded,  it  is  a  delightful  piece  of 
satire  upon  the  laws  of  evidence  and  the 
practice  of  trial  by  jury.  It  sometimes 
happens  that  a  particular  incident  or  a  par- 
ticular character  in  a  tale  takes  such  a  hold 
upon  the  public  mind  that  the  author's  broader 
aim  is  lost  sight  of,  and  it  is  possibly  so  in 
this  instance.  Dodson  &  Fogg  so  catch  the 
fancy  that  some  readers  never  get  past  them, 
and  forget  that  there  were  other  characters 
and  other  elements  in  the  little  drama,  and 
so  they  miss  the  delicate  satire  of  this  episode 
in  the  genial  Pickwick's  career.  Incidentally, 
the  author  no  doubt  intended  to  condemn  the 

and   the  Law  53 

conduct  of  litigation  upon  a  speculative  basis, 
and  also  to  illustrate  how,  in  the  hands  of 
clever  lawyers,  incidents,  trifling  and  inno- 
cent in  themselves,  may  be  made  to  appear 
fraught  with  deep  meaning,  and  be  presented  to 
a  credulous,  and  possibly  not  over-intelligent, 
jury  as  what  lawyers  call  "circumstantial 
evidence."  But  these  were  only  incidents. 
The  broad  aim  of  the  author  was  to  present 
an  object-lesson  designed  to  cast  ridicule 
upon  that  legal  system  which  he  so  much 
detested,  and  which  he  never  missed  an 
opportunity  of  holding  up  to  scorn. 

There  is  yet  another  lawyer  in  "  Pickwick 
Papers"  who  deserves  special  mention,  for  he 
is  of  a  type  quite  distinct  from  either  Kenge 
&  Carboy  or  Dodson  &  Fogg.  Solomon 
Pell  was  of  the  fraternity  known  as  bar- 
pariour  lawyers,  who  practised  in  the 
Insolvent  Court,  now  abolished  as  a  separate 
institution   and   merged    in    the    Bankruptcy 

54  Charles  Dickens 

Court.        These    parlour    lawyers    Dickens 
thus  described  : 

The  professional  establishment  of  the  more  opulent  of 
these  gentlemen  consists  of  a  blue  bag  and  a  boy.  They 
have  no  fixed  ofifices,  their  legal  business  being  transacted 
in  the  parlours  of  public-houses  or  the  yards  of  prisons. 

Mr.  Solomon  Pell  had  two  of  the  essential 
elements  which  make  for  success  in  the  law — 
he  had  perfect  confidence  in  himself,  and  he 
had  the  art  of  inspiring  confidence  in  his  clients. 
One  of  his  clients  was  Mr.  Weller,  senior, 
who  first  met  him  over  obtaining  the 
discharge  of  a  friend  of  the  road  "who  had 
contracted  a  speculative  but  improvident 
passion  for  horsing  long  stages,  which  had 
led  to  his  present  embarrassments."  Mr. 
Pell  had  then  so  impressed  Mr.  Weller 
that,  when  he  and  Sam  conceived  the  idea 
of  having  Sam  arrested  for  debt,  so  that 
he  might  go  into  the  Fleet  to  be  near  Mr. 
Pickwick,   Mr.    Weller  at   once  resorted   to 

and  the  Law  55 

Mr.  Pell,  whom  he  thus  described  to  Sam  : 
"  A  limb  o'  the  law,  Sammy,  as  has  got 
brains  like  the  frogs,  dispersed  all  over  his 
body,  and  reachin'  to  the  very  tips  of  his 
fingers. " 

Mr.  Pell  was  fortunate  in  retaining  this 
client's  confidence  for  all  kinds  of  business, 
for  after  Sam  had  made  his  father  understand 
that  legal  formalities  were  required  to  prove 
the  late  Mrs.  Weller's  will,  Mr.  Weller  had 
no  hesitation  about  the  selection  of  his 
lawyer  :  "  Pell  must  look  into  this,  Sammy. 
He's  the  man  for  a  difficult  question  of  law." 
And  this  piece  of  business  being  satisfactorily 
disposed  of,  Mr.  Weller  and  his  professional 
adviser  parted  with  mutual  regard,  their 
farewell,  like  their  introduction,  being  made 
in  the  bar-parlour,  and  their  confidence 
in  each  other  remaining  unshaken.  Mr. 
Solomon  Pell,  like  all  the  lawyers  of 
"  Pickwick,"    took    a    cheerful    view   of  life, 

56  Charles   Dickens 

although  the  phase  of  it  which  came 
particularly  under  his  notice  did  not  inspire 
cheerfulness.  But  ingress  and  exit  at  the 
Fleet  required  the  aid  of  the  law.  Insolvent 
debtors  were  not  particular  as  to  the 
personality  of  their  lawyers,  and  till  the 
Fleet  was  closed  these  bar-parlour  lawyers 
were  a  necessary  evil,  and,  in  their  own 
sphere,  perhaps,  served  their  clients  as  use- 
fully as  more  exalted  practitioners  in  the 
more  savoury  regions  of  legal  practice. 

In  "Great  Expectations"  we  make  the 
acquaintance  of  a  different  phase  of  the  law, 
and  of  two  of  the  best  of  Dickens'  legal 
creations — Mr.  J  aggers  and  his  clerk,  the 
cheerful  Mr.  Wemmick.  Of  every  other 
lawyer  in  the  Dickens  collection  we  have 
a  personal  description  ;  of  Mr.  Jaggers  we 
have  none,  and  yet  his  personality  is  vivid. 
No  reader  of  "  Great  Expectations  "  can  rise 
from    its   perusal    without    feeling   that   this 

and  the  Law  57 

character,  in  regard  to  whom  the  fewest  words 
are  said,  is  yet  the  outstanding  personality  of 
the  tale.  When  he  first  appears  upon  the 
scene,  visiting  Pip  to  tell  him  of  his  good 
fortune,  Mr.  J  aggers  thus  tersely  introduces 
himself,  and  in  so  doing  reveals  the  man  : 

My  name  is  Jaggers,  and  I  am  a  lawyer  in  London. 
I  am  pretty  well  knoivn. 

Equally  laconic,  but  quite  expressive,  is 
Mr.  Wemmick's  description  of  his  master  : 

Always  seems  to  me  as  if  he  had  set  a  man-trap  and 
was  watching  it.     Suddenly — click — you're  caught. 

Upon  Pip  remarking  that  he  supposed  Mr. 
Jaggers  was  a  skilful  lawyer — "  Deep,"  said 
Wemmick,  "as  Australia,"  pointing  with 
his  pen  at  the  office  floor  to  express  that 
Australia  was  understood  for  the  purpose 
of  the  figure  to  be  symmetrically  on  the 
opposite  spot  of  the  globe.     "If  there  was 

58  Charles  Dickens 

anything  deeper,"  added  Wemmick,  ''  hed  be 
itr  As  to  the  methods  of  business  of  some 
criminal  lawyers,  how  a  few  words  may 
express  much,  is  illustrated  by  the  following 
brief  but  suggestive  conversation  between 
Mr.  Jaggers  and  his  tout  Mike,  the  "gentle- 
man with  one  eye,  in  a  velveteen  suit  and 
fur  cap."     This  is  the  conversation  : 

"Oh,"  said  Mr.  Jaggers,  turning  to  the  man  who  was 
pulling  a  lock  of  hair  in  the  middle  of  his  forehead,  like 
the  bull  in  Cock  Robin  pulling  at  the  bell  rope,  "your 
man  comes  on  this  afternoon.  Well  ?  "  "  Well,  Master 
Jaggers,"  returned  Mike  in  the  voice  of  a  sufferer  from 
a  constitutional  cold,  "arter  a  deal  of  trouble  I  found 
one,  sir,  as  might  do."  "What  is  he  prepared  to 
swear  ?  "  "  Well,  Master  Jaggers,"  said  Mike,  wiping  his 
nose  on  his  fur  cap,  "  in  a  general  way,  anythink." 

Pip's  impression  of  Mr.  Jaggers  when  he 
went  to  see  him  in  the  Court  is  thus 
recorded  : 

He  had  a  woman  under  examination,  or  cross- 
examination — I  don't  know  which — and  was  striking  her, 
and  the  bench,  and  everybody,  with  awe.  If  anybody 
of  whosoever  degree  said  a  word  that  he  didn't  approve, 

and  the  Law 


he  instantly  required  to  have  it  taken  down.  If  any- 
body wouldn't  make  an  admission,  he  said,  "  I'll  have 
it  out  of  you,"  and  if  anybody  made  an  admission,  he  said, 
"  Now  I  have  got  you."  The  magistrates  shivered  under 
a  single  bite  of  his  finger.  Thieves  and  thief-takers  hung 
in  dread  rapture  on  his  words,  and  shrank  when  a  hair  of 
his  eyebrows  turned  in  their  direction.  Which  side  he  was 
on  I  couldn't  make  out,  for  he  seemed  to  me  to  be 
grinding  the  whole  place  in  a  mill. 

Dickens  had  a  wonderful  power  of  inter- 
preting impressions.  This  description  exactly 
personates  the  criminal  lawyer.  The  man 
who  devotes  himself  exclusively  to  criminal 
practice  often  acquires  an  Esau-like  attitude 
of  mind.  For  the  time  his  hand  seems  to  be 
against  every  man.  He  comes  instinctively 
to  regard  every  adverse  witness  as  a  liar, 
and  about  all  great  criminal  lawyers  there  is 
an  indescribable  quality  which  compels 
attention,  and  inspires  not  only  the  con- 
fidence of  clients,  but  the  fearing  respect  of 
all  regular  frequenters  of  the  criminal  Courts. 

Mr.   Jaggers  is  not  a  pleasant  character. 

6o  Charles  Dickens 

He  was  not  meant  to  be.  He  was  meant  to 
portray  a  special  type  of  lawyer,  better  known 
in  London  than  elsewhere,  for  London  is  the 
home  of  the  specialised  lawyer.  And  Mr. 
Jaggers  is  the  type  of  the  Old  Bailey 
practitioner,  the  only  one  in  all  Dickens' 
writings,  and  introduced,  as  I  think,  in  this 
book  specially  to  represent  this  type,  for  the 
tale  did  not  necessarily  require  a  criminal 
lawyer ;  for  the  purposes  of  the  story  any  kind 
of  confidential  lawyer  would  have  sufficed. 

In  pleasing  contrast  to  the  hard  and 
sour  Mr.  Jaggers,  who  so  markedly  took 
on  the  character  of  his  surroundings,  is  his 
genial  confidential  clerk  Mr.  Wemmick, 
whom  no  surroundings  influenced,  whose 
domestic  pleasantries  so  contrasted  with  his 
professional  duties,  with  his  toy  of  a  house 
at  Walworth,  "the  Castle"  which  was  the  pride 
of  his  deaf  old  father — "the  aged  P." 
Wemmick  is  the  Mark  Tapley  of  the  law. 

and  the  Law  6i 

The  sordidness  of  his  professional  employ- 
ment could  not  damp  his  spirits.  He  had 
grasped  the  philosophy  of  the  entire  separation 
of  the  professional  and  domestic  side  of  life 
when  he  said  to  Pip  : 

The  office  is  one  thing,  and  private  Hfe  is  another : 
when  I  go  into  the  office,  I  leave  the  Castle  behind  me, 
and  when  I  come  into  the  Castle,  I  leave  the  office 
behind  me. 

To  do  just  this  is  a  most  difficult  thing 
for  a  busy  lawyer  to  do.  But  that  it  is 
difficult  to  follow  in  practice  does  not  make 
Mr.  Wemmick's  philosophy  of  professional 
life  the  less  sound. 

In  "  Our  Mutual  Friend  "  the  law  plays 
little  part.  Mortimer  Lightwood,  no 
doubt,  was  a  lawyer,  and  so  was  his  friend 
Eugene  Wrayburn.  But  their  practice  of 
the  law  was  but  nominal,  and  their  aim  in 
life  was  the  pursuit  of  pleasure  rather  than 
of  guineas.      They   were,   however,   like  all 

62  Charles  Dickens 

the  Dickens  lawyers,  typical  of  their  class. 
They  represent  the  type  of  lawyer  who 
takes  a  legal  qualification  rather  for  its 
social  than  its  professional  aspect,  and  there 
is  nothing  about  them  of  any  distinct  pro- 
fessional character. 

In  "The  Mystery  of  Edwin  Drood"  there 
is  only  one  lawyer,  and  he  also  is  typical  of 
his  class,  that  select  class  of  the  semi-retired 
professional  man  who  with  a  legal  training 
has  drifted  into  a  legal  siding,  and  smothered 
professional  ambition. 

Mr.  Grewgious  had  been  bred  to  the  bar  and  had  laid 
himself  out  for  chamber  practice,  to  draw  deeds — "  '  con- 
vey '  the  wise  it  call,"  as  Pistol  says.  But  conveyancing 
and  he  had  made  such  a  very  indifferent  marriage  of  it  that 
they  separated  by  consent,  if  there  can  be  said  to  be  sepa- 
ration where  there  had  never  been  coming  together.  No, 
coy  conveyancing  would  not  come  to  Mr.  Grewgious. 
She  was  wooed,  not  won,  and  they  went  their  several 
ways.  But  an  arbitration  being  blown  towards  him  by 
some  unaccountable  wind,  and  he  gaining  great  credit  in 
it,  as  one  indefatigable  in  seeking  out  right,  and  doing 
right,  a  pretty  fat  receivership  was  next  blown  into  his 

and  the   Law  63 

pocket,  by  a  wind  more  traceable  to  its  source.     So  by 
chance  he  had  found  his  niche. 

I  always  think  of  Grewgious  as  a 
suspended  Perker.  Perhaps  he  never 
had  any  great  ambition  to  get  on  in  his 
profession.  Many  lawyers  do  lack  a  real 
interest  in  their  profession,  and  so  they  do 
not  advance  in  it.  Mr.  Grewgious  was  this 
sort  of  lawyer,  not  to  be  called  a  failure 
exactly,  but  rather  a  might-have-been.  Of 
course  a  comfortable  appointment  is  a  very 
pleasant  form  in  which  to  suffer  professional 
ambition  to  be  smothered,  and  Mr.  Grewgious 
in  his  niche  is  a  pleasing  picture  of  content. 
But  he  ceases  to  be  interesting  as  a  lawyer. 
Dickens  tersely  sums  him  up  thus  : 

He  had  snuffed  out  his  ambition  (supposing  him  to 
have  ever  Ughted  it)  and  had  settled  down  with  his 
snuffers  for  the  rest  of  his  life. 

There,  as  the  lawyer,  we  leave  Mr. 
Grewgious.       We    are    not    here    concerned 

64  Charles  Dickens 

with  him  in  his  character  of  the  kind- 
hearted  guardian  of  his  ward  Miss  Rosa  Bud, 
and  as  acting  the  part  of  general  peacemaker 
in  that  turbulent  tale  of  "  Edwin  Drood." 

In  "  David  Copperfield"  there  are  several 
lawyers,  but  there  is  very  little  law.  The 
nearest  approach  to  a  legal  complication  is 
the  exposure  of  the  humble  Uriah  Heep  by 
Mr.  Micawber,  resulting  in  the  recovery  of 
Miss  Betsy  Trotwood's  property,  and  the 
relief  of  the  embarrassments  of  Mr.  Wickfield, 
that  genial  and  lovable  specimen  of  the 
country  solicitor,  so  very  different  from  the 
Chancery  lawyers  of  "  Bleak  House"  or  the 
sharp  practitioners  of  "  Pickwick."  The 
weakness  of  old  Mr.  Wickfield,  taken  by 
itself,  might  seem  contemptible,  but  in  the 
hands  of  the  master  portrayer  of  character 
it  is  artistic,  for  Mr.  Wickfield's  facility  was 
the  necessary  foil  to  Uriah  Heep's  roguery, 
just  as  the  complications  which  resulted  gave 

and  the   Law  65 

the  opportunity  to  the  unselfish  and  good- 
natured  Tommy  Traddles  to  right  the  wrongs 
of  everybody  all  round.  Mr.  Traddles  is 
probably  the  outcome  of  Dickens'  own 
short  attempt  at  keeping  terms.  He  was  in 
the  life  long  enough  to  perceive  the  hard 
struggle  which  lies  before  the  barrister  without 
influence  and  connection  ;  and  within  his  own 
circle  Dickens,  no  doubt,  knew  many  young 
barristers  who  went  through  the  struggle  of 
professional  life  of  which  Tommy  Traddles 
was  the  impersonation. 

Uriah  Heep  as  a  lawyer's  clerk,  and 
ultimately  himself  a  legal  practitioner,  is 
entirely  devoid  of  interest.  As  a  man,  his 
loyalty  to  his  mother  is,  perhaps,  the  shadow 
of  a  redeeming  feature  in  his  character ;  but 
as  a  lawyer  he  has  no  distinctive  character  at 
all,  and  from  the  legal  side  he  illustrates 
nothing,  unless  it  be  that  which  is  common 
to    every    phase    of   business    life — that    the 

66  Charles  Dickens 

hypocrite  is  bound,  sooner  or  later,  to  reveal 
himself,  and  that  double-dealing  usually 
recoils  on  the  head  of  the  cheat. 

The  other  lawyers  who  figure  in  "  David 
Copperfield "  are  Spenlow  &  Jorkins,  the 
Doctor's  Commons  practitioners  to  whom 
David  Copperfield  became  an  articled  clerk. 
But  Mr.  Spenlow  is  of  interest  rather  as  the 
father  of  Dora  than  as  a  lawyer,  and  his  part- 
ner Mr.  Jorkins  is  of  interest  only  as  illustrat- 
ing a  favourite  device  of  Dickens,  of  playing 
off  one  partner  of  a  legal  firm  against  the 
other.  Dodson  played  off  his  partner  Fogg, 
Snitchey  his  partner  Craggs,  and  Jorkins 
was  the  bogey  of  the  firm  of  Spenlow  & 
Jorkins.     Says  David  Copperfield  : 

I  was  quite  dismayed  by  the  idea  of  this  terrible 
Jorkins.  But  I  found  out  afterwards  that  he  was  a  mild 
man  of  a  heavy  temperament,  whose  place  in  the  business 
was  to  keep  himself  in  the  background  and  be  constantly 
exhibited  by  name  as  the  most  obdurate  and  ruthless  of 
men.     If  a  clerk  wanted  his  salary  raised,  Mr.  Jorkins 

and  the  Law  67 

wouldn't  listen  to  such  a  proposition.  If  a  client  were 
slow  to  settle  his  bill  of  costs,  Mr.  Jorkins  was  resolved 
to  have  it  paid,  and  however  painful  these  things  might 
be  (and  always  were)  to  Mr.  Spenlow's  feelings,  Mr. 
Jorkins  would  have  his  bond.  The  heart  and  hand  of 
the  good  angel  Spenlow  would  have  been  always  open 
but  for  the  restraining  demon  Jorkins. 

To  which  description  of  Mr.  Jorkins  David 

quaintly  adds  : 

As  I  have  grown  older,  I  think  I  have  had  experience 
of  some  other  houses  doing  business  on  the  principle  of 
Spenlow  &  Jorkins. 

The    type    of    the    provincial    lawyer    is 

exemplified    by    Mr.    Wickfield    and    Uriah 

Heep     in     "  David    Copperfield,"    and     by 

Snitchey  &  Craggs  in  "  The  Batde  of  Life." 

Wickfield  and   Heep  of  Canterbury  had  no 

humour.     Snitchey  and  Craggs  were  full  of 

the  best  kind  of  it,  unconscious  wit.     When 

Dr.  Jeddler  the  philosopher,  whose  theory  was 

that  nothing  in  life  was  serious,  entertained 

Snitchy  and  Craggs  at  breakfast  the  morning 

the  lawyers   came   to  render  an  account  of 

68  Charles  Dickens 

their  stewardship  to  Alfred  Heathfield,  the 
doctor  had  quoted  the  French  wit  who  had 
expired  with  the  remark,  "The  farce  is  ended; 
draw  the  curtain." 

"  The  French  wit,"  said  Mr.  Snitchey,  peeping  sharply 
into  his  blue  bag,  "  was  wrong.  Dr.  Jeddler,  and  your 
philosophy  is  altogether  wrong,  depend  upon  it,  as  I 
have  often  told  you.  Nothing  serious  in  life  ?  What  do 
you  call  Law  ?  " 

"A  joke,"  rephed  the  doctor. 

"  Did  you  ever  go  to  law?  "  asked  Mr.  Snitchey. 

"  Never,"  returned  the  doctor. 

"If  you  ever  do,"  said  Mr.  Snitchey,  "perhaps  you'll 
alter  that  opinion." 

How  intensely  humorous  also  is  Snitchey's 
description  of  the  landscape  of  an  old  battle- 
field, which  they  looked  at  from  Dr.  Jeddler's 

Here's  a  smiling  country,  once  overrun  by  soldiers, 
trespassers  every  man  of  them,  and  laid  waste  by  fire  and 

Only  a  Dickens  imagination  could  have 
conceived  of  an  invading  army  as  "tres- 
passers "  !     Then  Snitchey  goes  on  : 

and  the   Law  69 

"  But  take  this  smiling  country  as  it  stands,  think  of 
the  law  appertaining  to  real  property,  to  the  bequest  and 
device  of  real  property,  to  the  mortgage  and  redemption 
of  real  property,  to  leasehold,  freehold,  and  copyhold 
estate.  Think,"  said  Mr.  Snitchey,  with  such  emotion 
that  he  actually  smacked  his  Hps,  "of  the  complicated 
laws  relating  to  title  and  proof  of  title,  with  all  the 
contradictory  precedents  and  numerous  Acts  of  Parlia- 
ment connected  with  them.  Think  of  the  infinite 
number  of  ingenious  and  interminable  Chancery  suits  to 
which  this  pleasant  prospect  may  give  rise,  and 
acknowledge,  Dr.  Jeddler,  that  there  is  a  green  spot  in  the 
scheme  about  us." 

Almost  every  utterance  of  these  two 
lawyers  in  "The  Battle  of  Life"  is  humorous, 
and  the  story  is  full  of  legal  sidelights,  of 
which  I  shall  mention  only  one,  which  to  me 
has  always  seemed  as  full  of  humour  as 
anything  Dickens  ever  wrote.  Two 
witnesses  being  required  to  Alfred's  discharge 
to  his  trustees,  Britain  the  serving  man,  and 
Clemency  Newcombe  the  maid,  were  called 
to  sign  as  witnesses.  Every  lawyer  who  has 
had  occasion   to   requisition  the   services  of 

70  Charles  Dickens 

country  persons  of  no  experience  to  witness 
a  deed  knows  how  true  to  life  is  the  descrip- 
tion of  the  male  and  the  female  witness, 
the  seriousness  of  the  one,  the  frivolity  of 
the  other,  and  the  deliberateness  of  both. 

How  Britain  approached  the  deeds  under  protest,  and 
by  dint  of  the  doctor's  coercion,  and  insisted  on  pausing 
to  look  at  them  before  writing,  and  also  on  turning  them 
round  to  see  whether  there  was  anything  fraudulent 
underneath,  and  how,  having  signed  his  name,  he 
became  desolate,  as  one  who  had  parted  with  his  property 
and  rights,  I  want  the  time  to  tell,  also  how  the  blue 
bag  containing  his  signature  afterwards  had  a  mysterious 
interest  for  him,  and  he  couldn't  leave  it;  also  how 
Clemency  Newcombe,  in  an  ecstasy  of  laughter  at  the 
idea  of  her  own  importance  and  dignity,  brooded  over 
the  whole  table  with  her  two  elbows,  like  a  spread  eagle, 
and  reposed  her  head  upon  her  left  arm,  as  a  preliminary 
to  the  formation  of  certain  cabalistic  characters,  which 
required  a  deal  of  ink,  and  imaginary  counterparts 
whereof  she  executed  at  the  same  time  with  her  tongue. 

The  most  unsavoury  type  of  lawyer  in  all 
Dickens'  writings  is  Mr,  Sampson  Brass 
in  the  "Old  Curiosity  Shop."     He  is  a  figure 

and  the  Law  yi 

only  a  degree  less  repulsive  than  his  client 
Mr.  Daniel  Quilp. 

This  Brass  was  an  attorney  of  no  very  good  repute, 
from  Bevis  Marks  in  the  City  of  London;  he  was  a 
tall,  meagre  man  with  a  nose  like  a  wen,  and  a  protruding 
forehead,  retreating  eyes,  and  hair,  of  a  deep  red.  He 
wore  a  long  black  surtout  reaching  nearly  to  his  ankles, 
short  black  trousers,  high  shoes,  and  cotton  stockings  of 
a  bluish  grey.  He  had  a  cringing  manner,  but  a  very 
harsh  voice ;  and  his  blandest  smiles  were  so  extremely 
forbidding  that,  to  have  had  his  company  under  the 
least  repulsive  circumstance,  one  would  have  wished  him 
to  be  out  of  temper  that  he  might  only  scowl. 

His  first  appearance  is  at  the  making  of  an 
inventory  of  the  contents  of  the  Old  Curiosity 
Shop,  when  Quilp,  the  inexorable  creditor, 
entered  upon  possession.  H is  last  appearance 
is  when  the  law  which  he  had  outraged 
overtook  him  in  retribution,  and  the  sentence 
of  the  Court  was  : 

That  he  should,  for  a  term  of  years,  reside  in  a  spacious 
mansion,  where  several  other  gentlemen  were  lodged 
and  boarded  at  the  public  charge,  who  went  clad  in  a 

72  Charles  Dickens 

sober  uniform  of  grey  turned  up  with  yellow,  had  their 
hair  cut  extremely  short,  and  chiefly  lived  on  gruel  and 
light  soup. 

The  career  of  Mr.  Sampson  Brass  is  one 
continuous  record  of  knavery.  He  is  the 
only  lawyer  in  the  Dickens  collection 
absolutely  without  any  redeeming  grace. 
He  had  not  even  a  sense  of  humour,  unless 
it  be  credited  to  him  for  humour  that  he 
employed  his  sister,  Sally  Brass,  as  "his 
clerk,  assistant,  housekeeper,  secretary, 
confidential  plotter,  adviser,  intriguer,  and 
bill  of  costs  increaser." 

Sally  Brass  holds  a  unique  place  amongst 
the  law  clerks  of  Dickens,  not  merely  because 
she  is  the  only  female  law  clerk,  but  also 
because  she  not  only  managed  her  brother's 
business,  but  managed  her  brother  himself. 
The  nearest  approach  to  Miss  Sally  Brass 
amongst  the  numerous  law  clerks  is  Mr. 
Bazzard  in  "  Edwin  Drood,"  the  confidential 

and  the  Law  73 

clerk  of  Mr.  Grewgious,  of  whom  his  master 
rather  stood  in  awe,  much  as  Mr.  Sampson 
Brass  stood  in  awe  of  his  sister.  Dickens' 
description  of  Miss  Brass  once  more 
illustrates  how  there  was  ever  present  to 
his  mind  a  fixed  hostility  to  the  law  and 
all  its  ways  : 

In  mind,  she  was  of  a  strong  and  vigorous  turn, 
having  from  her  earliest  youth  devoted  herself  with 
uncommon  ardour  to  the  study  of  the  law ;  not  wasting 
her  speculations  upon  its  eagle  flights,  which  are  rare, 
but  tracing  it  attentively  through  all  the  slippery  and 
eel-like  crawlings  in  which  it  commonly  pursues  its  way. 

The  last  word  about  Mr.  Sampson  Brass 
is  in  the  author's  best  satirical  vein  : 

His  name  was  erased  and  blotted  out  from  the  roll  of 
attorneys ;  which  erasure  has  been  always  held  in  these 
latter  times  to  be  a  great  degradation  and  reproach,  and 
to  imply  the  commission  of  some  amazing  villainy — as 
indeed  it  would  seem  to  be  the  case,  when  so  many 
worthless  names  remain  among  its  better  records, 

74  Charles  Dickens 

One  would  like  to  think  that  Sampson  Brass 
was  an  exception  to  the  general  rule  that 
every  Dickens  lawyer  is  a  type,  and  to  re- 
gard Mr.  Brass  as  an  excrescence  rather  than 
as  a  natural  feature  in  the  legal  profession  ; 
but  modern  experience  is  too  strong  for  this 
pleasing  assumption.  Since  Dickens'  day, 
and  not  least  conspicuously  within  recent 
years,  not  a  few  lawyers  have  ended  their 
careers  in  the  dock  ;  and  it  is  to  be  feared 
that  the  type  is  not  yet  extinct  of  the  lawyer 
who,  from  greed  of  gain,  lends  his  professional 
aid  to  the  tortuous  devices  of  an  unscrupu- 
lous client,  and  ends  by  finding  himself  with 
too  much  time  for  reflection  within  prison 

Sampson  Brass  is  the  picture  of  one 
kind  of  professional  failure  in  life.  There 
is  a  different  type  of  failure,  and  a  much 
sadder  one,  in  "  A  Tale  of  Two  Cities," 
for    Sydney   Carton,    in    some    respects   the 

and  the  Law  75 

most  lovable  character  created  by  Dickens, 
was  a  lawyer,  although  that  fact  is 
apt  to  be  forgotten,  because  the  interest 
which  centres  round  him  does  not  move  on 
the  legal  plane.  I  speak  of  him,  of  course, 
only  in  his  legal  aspect.  Whilst  personally 
he  was  the  kind  of  man  who  would  lay 
down  his  life  for  his  friend,  I  am  afraid  that 
professionally  he  is  also  the  type  of  man, 
not  unknown  in  the  legal  world,  who 
degrades  his  talents.  The  only  aspect  in 
which  he  is  presented  from  the  strictly 
legal  side  is  that  of  what  is  called 
"devilling"  to  Mr.  Stryver,  the  advocate 
who  defended  Charles  Darnay  at  the  trial 
for  treason. 

Mr.  Stryver  was  a  man  of  little  more  than  thirty,  but 
looking  twenty  years  older  than  he  was,  stout,  loud,  red, 
bluff,  and  free  from  any  drawback  of  delicacy. 

It  had  once  been  noted  at  the  bar  that  while  Mr. 
Stryver  was  a  glib  man,  and  an  unscrupulous,  and  a 
ready,  and  a  bold,  he  had  not  that  faculty  of  extracting 

76  Charles   Dickens 

the  essence  from  a  heap  of  statements  which  is  among 
the  most  striking  and  necessary  of  the  advocate's 
accompHshments.  But  a  remarkable  improvement  came 
upon  him  as  to  this.  The  more  business  he  got,  the 
greater  his  power  seemed  to  grow  of  getting  at  its  pith 
and  marrow,  and  however  late  at  night  he  sat  carousing 
with  Sydney  Carton,  he  always  had  his  points  at  his 
finger  ends  in  the  morning. 

The  explanation  was  simple.  Sydney 
Carton  was  supplying  the  brains,  and  Stryver 
was  getting  the  success.  It  is  a  sad  picture 
that  of  the  jackal  and  the  lion  carousing 
together  whilst  Carton  did  the  "  boiling 
down  "  of  the  busy  advocate's  papers,  which 
on  the  morrow  Stryver  should  use  to  further 
his  success,  whilst  poor  Carton's  work  was 
unrecognised.  Unutterably  sad  is  the  reflec- 
tion of  this  clever,  but  lost,  lawyer  as  he 
walked  home  in  the  early  morning  after  a 
carousal  with  Stryver  : 

Waste  forces  within  him,  and  a  desert  all  around,  this 
man  stood  still  on  his  way  across  a  silent  terrace  and  saw 
for  a  moment  lying  in  the  wilderness  before  him  a  mirage 

and   the  Law 


of  honourable  ambition,  self-denial,  and  perseverance; 
sadly,  sadly  the  sun  rose ;  it  was  upon  no  sadder  sight 
than  the  man  of  good  abilities  and  good  emotions, 
incapable  of  their  directed  exercise,  incapable  of  his  own 
help  and  his  own  happiness,  sensible  of  the  blight  on  him 
and  resigning  himself  to  let  it  eat  him  away, 

I  am  afraid  that  in  the  law,  as  in  other 
walks  of  life,  there  are  many  failures,  of 
whom  Sydney  Carton  is  a  type. 

I  have  barely  tapped  the  legal  mine  of 
interest  in  Dickens.  I  have  but  glanced  at 
some  of  the  more  outstanding  aspects  of  the 
subject,  and  the  more  outstanding  personali- 
ties. There  are  other  aspects,  and  other 
individuals,  over  whom  one  would  like  to 
linger  and  to  speculate.  Delightful  possi- 
bilities seem  to  lurk  in  many  of  the  minor 
legal  characters,  such  as  Mr.  Phunky,  the 
bashful  junior  counsel  for  Pickwick,  or  the 
roisterous  Lowton,  Mr.  Perker's  clerk,  and 
the  law  clerks  who  held  high  revel  under  his 
presidency  at  The   Magpie  and   Stump,  or 

78  Charles   Dickens 

the  meek-mannered  Jackson,  the  clerk  of 
Dodson  &  Fogg.  But  to  exhaust  the  legal 
interest  in  the  works  of  Charles  Dickens 
would  want  a  bulky  volume. 

Some  of  the  Dickens  lawyers  are  eccentric 
and  some  commonplace ;  some  are  dry-as- 
dust,  some  very  human  ;  no  two  of  them  are 
alike,  and  each  is  typical  of  a  class  to  be 
found  in  the  legal  profession  in  the  present 
day,  just  as  in  the  time  of  Dickens.  That, 
by  his  writings,  Dickens  drew  public  attention 
to  some  of  the  cruel  features  of  the  law  as  it 
existed  in  his  day,  especially  as  regards 
imprisonment  for  debt,  and  that  his  writings 
were  a  powerful  factor  in  removing  or  soften- 
ing hard  features  of  the  judicial  system,  there 
is  no  doubt.  But  there  are  anomalies  and 
evils  denounced  in  his  books  still  unremedied. 
There  is  yet  a  wide  field  open  to  the  Dickens 
student,  in  the  judicial  aspect  of  Dickens' 
works,  and  my  aim  has  been  accomplished  if 

and  the  Law  79 

I  have  been  able,  in  some  degree,  to  flash  a 
little  light  upon  this  undeveloped  mine  of 
interest,  and  in  some  small  measure  to 
create,  as  regards  the  attitude  of  Charles 
Dickens  to  the  law,  a  desire  on  the  part  of 
others  to  inquire  further  into  a  subject  so 
teeming  with  interest. 

Xhree  Books  for 


By    S.    J.    ADAIR    FITZ^QERALD, 

Author  of  "  Stories  of  Famous  Songs,"  &c. 

Crown  Svo.      js.   net. 

"THIS  volume  deals  with  the  whole  subject  of  Dickens  and  the  stage 
in  such  a  comprehensive  manner  as  to  render  it  the  authoritative 
book  of  reference  for  all  students  of  the  Drama  and  Dickens.  Mr. 
Fitz-Gerald,  who  has  been  a  dramatic  critic  and  recognised  theatrical 
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subject.  But  he  has  consulted  and  studied  all  the  known  authorities 
in  making  his  book  complete,  and  has  been  able  to  correct  and  amplify 
previous  writers  on  the  theme.  In  the  early  portion  of  his  volume 
Mr.  Fitz-Gerald  touches  on  Dickens's  youthful  days  and  his  interest 
and  performances  in  amateur  theatricals,  and  on  those  more  ambitious 
efforts  in  later  life  for  charity.  After  dwelling  in  an  interesting  chapter 
on  Dickens  as  a  Dramatist,  Mr.  Fitz-Gerald  proceeds  to  deal  with 
plays  that  have  been  created  out  of  each  work  of  the  novelist.  The 
volume  will  contain  some  curious  and  interesting  illustrations. 


By    H.    B.    BROWNE,    M.A. 

Illustrated.      Second  Edition.       Crown  Svo.      2s.  6d.  net. 

HTHESE  plays  are  designed  to  meet  a  growing  demand  for  short 
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and  arranged  from  Dickens's  books  with  as  little  alteration  as  possible 
in  the  text,  and  with  the  object  of  bringing  out  the  characteristics  of 
the  persons  represented.  They  are  intended  for  a  small  stage,  with 
little  or  no  scenery,  and  with  as  few  effects  as  possible,  for  a  small 
number  of  players,  and  for  an  average  length  of  time  of  fifteen  minutes 

The    Posthumous   Papers   of   the 
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Dickens's  immortal  book,  none,  we  venture  to  assert,  has  caught 
the  spirit  of  the  great  writer's  humour,  realised  the  characteristics  of 
the  notable  persons  of  the  book  more  faithfully,  and  presented  the 
atmosphere  and  the  surroundings  of  the  period  in  which  the  story  is 
laid,  with  more  truthfulness,  and  in  more  perfect  harmony  with  the 
text  than  has  Mr.  Cecil  Aldin  in  this  edition.  Whilst  retaining  the 
outward  appearance  of  the  characters  by  which  the  world  has  come 
to  recognise  them,  Mr.  Aldin  has  not  exaggerated  their  own  special 
peculiarities,  nor  made  them  in  the  least  caricatures  of  what  their 
creator  meant  them  to  be. 

Each  of  the  twenty-four  coloured  plates  is  a  perfect  picture,  whilst 
the  one  hundred  black  and  white  illustrations  in  the  text  form  in  them- 
selves a  pictorial  narrative  of  the  wonderful  peregrinations  of  the 
famous  club,  absolutely  correct  as  regards  the  details.  The  Cecil 
Aldin  Pickwick  will  undoubtedly  be  the  book  of  the  year.  Already 
all  the  hand-made  paper  edition  has  been  disposed  of  to  the  book- 


Notable  Scottish  Trials. 

The  Scotsman — "  Messrs.  William  Hodge  &  Co.  are  doing  good 
public  service  in  issuing  a  series  of  volumes  dealing  with  '  Notable 
Scottish  Trials.'  Since  many  of  these  trials  took  place  a  new  generation 
has  arisen,  to  whom  most  of  the  persons  tried  are  mere  names,  and  the 
series  promised  by  Messrs.  Hodge  &  Co.  will  necessarily  take  the  form 
of  educative  works  of  considerable  historic  value." 


Price  5s.  net  each. 

Madeleine  Smith.  Edited  by  A.  Duncan  Smith,  F.S.A. 
(Scot.),  Advocate. 

Dr.  Pritchard.  Edited  by  Wm.  Roughead,  W.S.,  Edin- 

The  City  of  Glasgow  Bank  Directors.  Edited  by  Wm. 
Wallace,  Advocate,  Sheriff-Substitute,  Oban. 

Eugene  Marie  Chantrelle.  Edited  by  A.  Duncan 
Smith,  F.S.A.(Scot.),  Advocate. 

Deacon  Brodie.  Edited  by  Wm.  Roughead,  W.S.,  Edin- 

James  Stewart  (The  Appin  Murder).  Edited  by  David 
N.  Mackay,  Writer,  Glasgow. 

A.  J.  Monson.  Edited  by  J.  W.  More,  B.A.(Oxon.), 

The  Douglas  Cause.  Edited  by  A.  Francis  Steuart, 

Captain  Porteous.  Edited  by  Wm.  Roughead,  W.S., 

Oscar  Slater.  Edited  by  Wm.  Roughead,  W.S.,  Edinburgh. 

Jessie  M'Lachlan.  Edited  by  Wm.  Roughead,  W.S., 

Lord  Lovat.    Edited  by  David  N.  Mackay,  Writer,  Glasgow. 

WM.  HODGE  &  CO.,  Edinburgh  and  Glasgow.